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GVN Symposium on the Global Spread of Chikungunya

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GVN Symposium on the Global Spread of Chikungunya

On November 5, GVN and its partner, ASTMH, convened a special symposium on “The Global Spread of Chikungunya: Epidemiology, Evolution, Pathogenesis and Global Needs” at the annual ASTMH meeting in New Orleans.  All three of GVN’s Task Force Chairs on Chikungunya spoke at the session, which was organized by Dr. Scott Weaver of UTMB, one of the co-chairs.  Other co-chairs are Dr. Marc Lecuit, Pasteur Institute, France, and Dr. John Fazakerley, Pirbright Institute, UK.  Click here for the full agenda.

MEDIA ADVISORY

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Who: The Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF) and St. George’s University (SGU) in partnership with the Global Virus Network (GVN)

  • Dr. Robert Gallo, Director, Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine and Co-Founder and Scientific Director, GVN
  • Dr. Anders Vahlne, Professor of Clinical Virology at the Department of Laboratory Medicine, Karolinska Institute, and Center Director of the Swedish-Estonia GVN Center of Excellence
  • The Rt. Hon C. Modeste-Curwen, Minister of Health, Grenada
  • Calum N.L. Macpherson, Vice President and Founding Director, WINDREF
  • Dr.  Charles R. Modica, Chancellor, SGU

What: Virology Workshop for U.S. and Caribbean Journalists

When: 7:30 am, Thursday January 30, 2014 – 12:00 pm, Saturday February 1, 2014

Where: St. George’s University (SGU)

Contact: For more info, please contact Nora Grannell at ngrannell@gvn.org or 1 410-706-1966

Conference Overview:

The Viral Workshop for Journalists will provide reporters from varying U.S. and Caribbean media outlets an opportunity to learn firsthand about the nature of viruses, their spread, and virus treatments and vaccinations.  The workshop aims to take what can be a complex subject – the science and epidemiology of viruses – and break it down to a comprehensible level that can be utilized when reporters need to communicate to the masses about important news relating to viruses.  The workshop will feature expert virologists from around the world, including world renowned virologist Dr. Robert Gallo, most widely known for his co-discovery of HIV and his development of the blood test.  Dr. Gallo also discovered the first known human retroviruses (HTLV-1 and HTLV-2) which are endemic to regions in the Caribbean including Grenada.  Local officials including the Rt. Hon C. Modeste-Curwin, Minister of Health will open the meeting, and SGU students will engage with reporters in the laboratory, among other activities.

Other leading participants include Dr. Anders Vahlne, Professor of Clinical Virology in the Department of Laboratory Medicine, Karolinska Institute, and Center Director of the Swedish-Estonian GVN Center of Excellence; Dr. Calum MacPherson, Vice Provost at St. George’s University and Vice President of WINDREF; Dr. Donald Jungkind, Professor of Microbiology at St. George’s University Medical School; and Dr. Charles Modica, Chairman of the Board of Trustees and Chancellor of St. George’s University.

Prominent Virologist Stanley Plotkin Joins GVN as Senior Advisor

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Dr.-Stanley-Plotkin-photo
Baltimore, MD: January 14, 2014 ;The Global Virus Network (GVN) is honored to have Dr. Stanley A. Plotkin, Emeritus Professor of the University of Pennsylvania and consultant to all of the major vaccine manufacturers, serve as a senior advisor. Dr. Plotkin is world renowned for his development of the rubella vaccine- now in standard use throughout the world, and has worked extensively on the development and application of other vaccines including polio, rabies, varicella, rotavirus and cytomegalovirus.
 
“I am happy to join such a distinguished group of virologists,” said Dr. Plotkin.
 
“Stan is one of the most experienced and wisest of virologists who will be invaluable to the GVN objectives,” said GVN co-founder and scientific director Dr. Robert Gallo.
 
“Stan’s encyclopedic knowledge of viruses and their modes of transmission will be of enormous help in guiding the Scientific Leadership Board of GVN when decisions have to be made to limit the expansion of existing epidemics or curb the outbreak of newly emerging viruses,” said fellow GVN co-founder, Dr. Reinhard Kurth, Chairman of the Foundation Council, Ernst Schering Foundation in Berlin, Germany.
 

A New Pathogen in Paradise

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A New Pathogen in Paradise

A new virus with a strange name recently emerged in the popular press and the public consciousness. On 19 December 2013, two confirmed cases of locally acquired chikungunyavirus (CHIK) were reported on the French Caribbean island of Martinique. The World Health Organization announced that this is the first time local transmission of this virus has been detected in the Americas.

 

CHIK is spread by the bite of infected mosquitos such as Aedesaegypti (the yellow fever mosquito) and Aedes albopictus (the Asian tiger mosquito).

 

In human infections, CHIK can cause a debilitating illness often characterized by headache, fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, rash, and joint pain. It is rarely fatal, but it can lead to chronic, debilitating joint pain. The virus was discovered in 1953 in Tanzania during an epidemic of dengue-like illness, and acquired its name from a local phrase that means ‘that which bends up.’ In other words, causes pain.

 

Since its discovery, the virus has been responsible for outbreaks in Kenya (2004), the French island of Reunion off East Africa (2005-06), and in other locations.  The Reunion outbreak resulted in 244,000 cases and 203 deaths.  A 2006 outbreak in India involved more than a million cases.  Travelers returning from Africa and Réunion also introduced the virus into parts of Europe.

Subsequent outbreaks in India likely were driven by the virus’ ability to adapt to the more aggressive tiger mosquito, and to acquire mutations that shortened the period of viral replication in the mosquito and thereby increased the viral load.  The end result was a fast-moving epidemic.

“These observations point to one important fact that the more the efficiency with which we contain the primary outbreak of this disease, the better we are able to prevent adaptive mutations in the virus and the emergence of severe infections and explosive epidemics,” notes a member of the Global Virus Network (GVN), Dr. E. Sreekumar, at the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology in Kerala, India.

There is no specific antiviral treatment available forchikungunya fever. Treatment is symptomatic and includes rest, fluids, and medicines to relieve symptoms of fever and aching such as ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen, or paracetamol.(Aspirin should be avoided.)

 

Various research groups in the U.S. and Europe are working on a vaccine.  Recently, a group in the Netherlands reported on the production of a synthetic CHIK vaccine* that protected mice from infection and inflammation caused by the Réunion Island CHIK virus strain.

 

Like other viruses before it, CHIK has moved west into the Americas with the aid of tourists and international trade.  An effective vaccine would be an important tool in controlling this emerging virus.

* Effective Chikungunya Virus-like Particle Vaccine Produced in Insect Cells. Stefan W. Metz, Joy Gardner, CorinneGeertsema, Thuy T. Le, Lucas Goh, Just M. Vlak, AndreasSuhrbier, Gorben P. Pijlman. March 14, 2013. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0002124.